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Oberst comes of age with
mature Americana-pop

Bright Eyes - Cassadaga
(Saddle Creek Records)
4 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: May 1, 2007
Bright Eyes

Review by Tony Bonyata

Twelve years after he started recording music under the band moniker Bright Eyes at the tender age of 15 it appears Nebraskan singer/songwriter Conor Oberst has finally come of age on his seventh full-length album of new material entitled Cassadaga.

Named after a 112 year-old spiritualist camp of mediums, fortune tellers and spiritualists in Central Florida the subject matter likewise teeters between heaven & hell and flesh & fantasy, while cloaked in darkness and tragedy. "I'm going to Cassadaga to commune with the dead. They said you'd better look alive," Oberst confidently warbles on the album's first singe "Four Winds." And 'look alive' they do as the invigorating interplay between multi-instrumentalist, producer and permanent band member Mike Mogis' mandolin and Anton Patzner's dancing violin creates a swirling, spirited backdrop for Oberst's impassioned vocal delivery.

On Cassadaga the 27 year-old ruminates over his travels across the States and comes up with a sprawling thirteen-track collection that's not only his most mature effort to date but also, quite arguably, his finest. From spacious folk numbers augmented by ethereal pedal steel guitar and spectral strings ("No One Would Riot For Less," "Middleman" and "Lime Tree") to country-fried barn burners (the aforementioned "Four Winds") and proud stabs at rootsy Americana ("Soul Singer In A Session Band" and "Classic Cars") to the wonderfully poetic ("I Must Belong Somewhere," where he cries, "Leave the novelist in his daydream tomb. Leave the scientist in her Rubick's cube. Leave the true genius in the padded cell. Everything it must belong somewhere.") Oberst, along with Mogis and trumpet and piano player Nate Walcott have created a richly satisfying album.

Joining the ranks of Bright Eyes' revolving cast of characters are modern heavyweights M. Ward (guitar and vocals), Gillian Welch (vocals) and Rachel Yamagata (vocals). While these talents add wonderful hues to the palette, it's ultimately Oberst's songs and Mogis' sumptuous production that make this patchwork of pop, western balladry and Louisiana Hayride-country such a picture-perfect musical tapestry.

Watch Bright Eyes' - "Four Winds" video

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